Tales of Unusual Circumstance
By Joey Weiser
Author House Books
The title of Joey Weiser’s first collection is more than just the simple homage to classic EC books betrayed by its front and back covers. Tales of Unusual Circumstance is as much a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the world of pre-code comics as it is an over-arching mission statement for Weiser’s work. Boiled down to its essence, the vast majority of the pieces contained herein subscribed to a simple but effective gameplan: the creation of bizarre scenarios through the juxtaposition of seemingly dissonant forces.
It seems fitting, then, that the simplest of these is also the most endearing, and the one with which Weiser seems to have formed the strongest connection, revisting multiple times over the course of the book, sandwiched between cameos on the front and back covers. The Unremarkable Tree Frog revisits alternative comics’ perennial obsession with the superhero, pitting the titular costumed protagonist against the banality of modern existence, borrowing a page or two from the characters like Too Much Coffee Man, Bighead, and by extension, The Tick.
But where those characters do, on occasion, wage battle against the forces of evil, The Unremarkable Tree Frog is too busy pining over quasi-villain, Thievery Girl, whose petty crimes he excuses away in hopes of striking up some manner of conversation. There’s nothing remarkably original in Weiser’s hero, but the artist’s aggressive embrace of life’s banalities helps lend an air of humanity that his more hyperbolic counterparts tend to lack.
Tales of Unusual Circumstance’s other strongest moments come in the form of off-beat parables, like the ogre-battling Peach Boy and the helmet-wearing duckling, Jim, both of which find Weiser imparting minor life lessons.
Weiser makes a few cameos over the course of the book, as well, though the appearances are anything but standard mini-comic autobiography, hammering home absurdities with mixed results. The Future offers up fresh take on the oft-doomed existence of comic artists. The polar bear-themed two-page gag strip, Everybody Knows, fails to live up to its own bizarre premise, like a small handful of short tossaways scattered amongst the book’s longer pieces.
Still there’s a lot fun contained in these pages, coupled with the Hutch Owen-like simplicity of Weiser’s bold pen lines. A couple of chuckles are all Weiser seems to ask from his readers, which, in all in all, seems like a pretty fair deal in the end.